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Published on February 4, 2020

The 16 Habits Of Mind That Make You Smarter

The 16 Habits Of Mind That Make You Smarter

In most learning situations, we see three elements at work:

We’re given objectives, we get instructed on how to achieve those objectives, and the learning stems from the results that we obtain.

Growing up, this was the learning structure that we had at the core, but there were many others that grew around that time. The only problem was they weren’t common practice and still aren’t.

I’ve covered others before through self-taught learning and deliberate practice. But one other I haven’t covered is habits of mind. These habits are powerful like most of non-traditional learning methods.

For this one, in particular, it can lead to great success and could change your life forever.

What Are “Habits of Mind”?

The habits themselves are nothing new or revolutionary. Developed by Art Costa and Bena Kallick, the two authors of Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Successbelieve these habits are less on behavior but more on intent.

The pair writes:

A “Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. When humans experience dichotomies, are confused by dilemmas, or come face to face with uncertainties–our most effective actions require drawing forth certain patterns of intellectual behavior. When we draw upon these intellectual resources, the results that are produced through are more powerful, of higher quality and greater significance than if we fail to employ those patterns of intellectual behaviors.

Another way to look at this is that the habits of mind push us to look at problems from different angles. Not only that, but it can be challenging to achieve this as successfully using these habits of mind requires skill, and experience.

So don’t think you’ll achieve mastery of these over a short period of time.

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The 16 Habits of Mind

But don’t get your hopes down because it’ll be challenging. As I said above, these habits are nothing complicated or new. Chances are you’ve got some of these habits.

The challenge is using those habits in a learning situation to develop yourself further. With that said, here is a rundown of the habits.

  1. Persisting
  2. Managing Impulsivity
  3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  4. Thinking Flexibly
  5. Thinking about Thinking
  6. Striving for Accuracy
  7. Questioning and Posing Problems
  8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision
  10. Gathering Data Through All Senses
  11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating
  12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  13. Taking Responsible Risks
  14. Finding Humor
  15. Thinking Interdependently
  16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

While knowing the habits is one thing, it’s another to apply them in a learning environment. Below are some examples of each of the habits of mind can be used.

1. Persisting

Persistence is all about not giving up and achieving whatever your goal is. Over the years, there have been several examples of this. When it comes to developing this skill, the best thing to do in this scenario is to pull from these examples.

How this helps with learning is that it encourages us to continue learning and working towards our goals.

2. Managing Impulsivity

Remember that habits of mind are designed to find problems that people wouldn’t find on the first go. This is key because whenever we see problems, we are quick to act on impulse. We don’t bother to think about other options.

This habit of mind helps us to hesitate, but only to consider other possible scenarios. In other words, you want to be practicing patience when coming up with solutions and deciding how to act.

How this helps in a learning situation is it pushes us to weigh our options when presented with a problem.

3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy

Many of us listen in order to reply rather than listen to understand and relate to the person. In conversations, we can find ourselves comparing, judging, placating or offering advice rather than listening and understanding a message.

To improve those skills, catch yourself whenever you do those sorts of things. This can also help in learning because when we are listening to understand, we have a deeper grasp of concepts, and the problems.

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4. Thinking Flexibly

We all have opinions and perspectives of reality and that bias seeps into everything that we see and what we read and learn. For this specific habit of mind, developing this requires us to look at things from a different angle.

That’s not to say to look at everything with skepticism, but rather to use a different perspective than our own or the original speakers. Place yourself in different shoes and walk around in them as they say.

How this applies to learning environments is that when we use different angles, there’s a deeper understanding. Knowing one side of a problem is good, but knowing where both parties are coming from is even better.

5. Metacognition

Otherwise known as thinking about thinking, developing this habit comes down to that. It’s important that you’re aware of your thinking process.

How you do that comes down to charting a map. A good example is drawing up a diagram of relationships. It’s a map that details the relationship between a want and a need as well as a gesture and a need to gesture.

6. Striving for Accuracy

This habit of mind is ensuring that what you are doing is accurate. How would you know if you’re doing it right without someone telling you it’s correct?

While you don’t want to be reliant on people’s opinions, it is still helpful to get others to check what you’re doing is proper and that you are making progress.

This is why it helps to have at least two or three people review your work before it moves on. Provided that reviewing is possible.

7. Questioning and Posing Problems

Learning stems from presenting problems and asking questions. For some generations, this is second nature as many aren’t afraid to go to google and figure things out. Developing this habit stems from this as well.

That or if you are in the middle of something, you could write questions down on post-it notes.

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8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

Another part of the habits of mind is that these develop through experiences. These experiences can be recent or they can stem from the past. Recalling previous knowledge and applying it to new situations can have it’s merits.

By no means is it always the best solution on the table, but knowing what was done in the past can add a deeper understanding. Either way pulling from an area you’re already comfortable in can improve learning.

9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision

This one goes hand in hand with listening with understanding and empathy. The idea behind this habit of mind is to speak directly to people and avoid being vague, abstract or using imprecisions.

Examples of these words are always, all, everybody, celebrities, technology.

It’s not that using these words is bad or improper. Being able to speak directly and to think with a narrow focus helps in approaching a problem. Just because one piece of technology is faulty, doesn’t make all technology faulty. When addressing a problem and communicating, we need to focus on the specific point first.

10. Gathering Data Through All Senses

What this means is looking at various sources when it comes to learning. Of course, the quality of the source is important but pulling from sources like sensory data, blogs, and other third-party sources can have its merits.

11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating

Learning can be pulled from all kinds of different methods. It’s also good for you to be keeping the creative side of ourselves active as well seeing as it can provide opportunities for us to think of new solutions.

Similar to being flexible with our thinking, tapping into other regions that we may not excel in can help.

12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe

If you see learning as a chore, chances are you won’t be retaining any information. It’s important that we have a passion for the subject and that we’re eager to learn and indulge in the topic.

Responding with awe and wonderment is one of the side effects when we are interested in a topic.

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13. Taking Responsible Risks

For this habit of mind, this prioritizes how we see failure and when to take risks. It’s important to see failure as an improvement to grow rather than something to get punished for.

14. Finding Humor

Humor can bring things back to reality as we find all kinds of things funny. While what you are learning could be serious, tying it into stories that cause positive emotions will help in making it stick.

15. Thinking Interdependently

Today this is easier to achieve thanks in part to social media. Because we are all connected, it’s easy for us to connect our thoughts with other people. Every single day, more content is published and shared and consuming that can help us in this area.

16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

The last of the habits of mind is learning continuously. As the habit suggests, learning is constant and old ideas need to be revised. After all, we know how problematic it can be when methods or views are dated.

The world is on the move to growing and improving day after day — online and offline. It’s up to us to stay up to speed by developing ourselves too: How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

Final Thoughts

The habits of mind focus heavily on our own experiences and skills in the world. The more we get out to experience life, the more that we will learn and hone these 16 skills.

By taking these skills to heart and applying them in learning, we can begin to change our lives as the knowledge we gain can be applied in many facets of our lives. The habits of mind are indeed the keys to our success and growth.

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Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

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